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What is breathwork?

When I first encountered breathwork many years ago I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I mean “breathing”? Really?

I’d been a practitioner of Qi Gong for many years, done my fair share of tai chi and martial arts (including those styles with the annoying loud KEEYI!!) and figure if I haven’t learnt to breathe by this stage in life I wouldn’t last much longer.

On top of that I’d done a bit of yogic pranayama and, apart from finding it particularly awkward to close off one nostril with the right combination of fingers and thumbs (and without resting my elbow on my knee when my head begins to droop), I don’t feel like my hemispheres are any more balanced, nor my Idas and Pingalas less tangled around my Sushumna after a decent bout of pranayam.

So what’s different about Breathwork?

So what’s different about breathwork? And why are people raving? And what’s with all the different schools of breathwork in Ubud? It’s just breathing right?

To investigate I attended two breathwork sessions with a couple of the premier teachers in Bali. The first was Antonio Abbagnano’s Alchemy of Breath, hosted by the Bali School of Breathwork. I missed Lena Tuulse’s Liberation Breathwork which by all accounts was a-mazing but I did catch the grand finale in the Main Pavilion for Christabel Zamor’s Breath of Bliss.

So what did I learn? Well first I have a little confession to make. I didn’t do any breathwork. That’s right. I didn’t do any breathwork!

In fact I was there as an assistant (technically known as an Angel – honest!) because I’ve done a bunch of breathwork in the past and I’ve also helped out at a teacher training or two.

What is breathwork?

So first things first. What is breathwork?

Simply put it is a continuous series of interconnected breaths. You can try it along with me right now if you like:

Step 1 – Open Your Mouth

Open your mouth a little wider than is polite. Relax the jaw, open the chest, and make sure no one is looking too closely.

Step 2 – Take a Breath In

Take a deep breath in like you’ve just seen the most spectacular mountain view sunset you’ve ever seen in your life. Something so staggeringly beautiful it fills you with wonder.

Step 3 – Take a Breath Out

Now release your breath in complete surrender. Antonio uses the image of lying on one’s deathbed, completely at peace, and finally surrendering your last breath to the world.

Step 4 – Don’t Pause!

At the end of the outbreath you may notice a tendency to pause. This is where the “work” comes in. Don’t pause! Keep breathing and roll straight from the end of the outbreath and in to a new in breath.

Step 5 – Rinse And Repeat

As you reach the top of the in breath you will naturally begin to exhale to the end of the outbreath and then the cycle begins again. No pause, just a series of interconnected in breaths and outbreaths.

When you do this for the first time you’ll probably notice a number of interesting sensations. These could range from nothing at all to a feeling of light-headedness, some tingling in the arms or extremities, pleasant or uncomfortable emotions which weren’t there before, or simply an altered state.

At this point I recommend you stop. It’s great to peek through the door of the breath and see what lies on the other side, but if you’re really going to take the journey, it’s best to do it a) lying down, and b) with a trained facilitator. Like Antonio. Or Christabel. Or Lena. Or any of the teachers and graduates from the Bali School of Breathwork.

In my next post, I will explain what a breathwork ceremony is and show you a video from the last BaliSpirit Festival.


Written by : Russel Price


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